Sequoyah AONO “Vital Beating”

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We are pleased to announce Solo Exhibition “Vital Beating” by the sculptor, Sequoyah AONO, who has been deploying his activities based in New York. He attracts people’s attention showing his high skills to carve delicate realistic objects, his flexible works by wide range of stone, wood, metal, and/or experimental approach to wood works by burning or cutting parts off. In Western countries he has been highly acclaimed by huge outdoor sculptures and commission works; however, this is his first solo exhibition in Japan.

AONO’s latest work 《Sculpture of Liberty》, the core of this exhibition, is sculpted of black marble which he has kept for about 10 years. From last year to this year he cut out this marble, scrupulously carved, polished and created an elaborate life-sized self-portrait. And then, as the finishing touch, he vandalized this sculpture by knocking down to the ground. At the exhibition you will see the dismembered sculpture itself and the video film which shows the moment of collapse.

At first glance, to complete the sculpture by means of destroying seems to be negative or catastrophic action. But AONO who has daily kept carving stone or wood, says that the action of carving is also destroying; in the sense that it adds artificial changes to material which power of nature creates in years and years. He adds the process of collapsing his core piece to the ground utilizing gravity is somewhat away from artificial carving.

Through these process, the work 《Sculpture of Liberty》 and the exhibition lead us to new viewpoint. The cross-sections by collapsing are beyond imagination – even the artist himself couldn’t expect, and viewers will appreciate unknown prospect and outlook. This destroying action doesn’t mean end or completion; it animates sculpture and it’s considered as a starting point to new creation. Eventually, AONO intends that this becomes new questions or irradiation toward essence and visual sense of sculpture-art in general. His works may evoke themes such as succession of cultural assets, perfection and historicity like 《Fragment of a Queen’s Face》 possessed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, of which striking fragment ushered him to this exhibition as the start. Also destruction and construction by constant disaster in Japan and his own mixed identity of Japan & America exist here as his consistent theme as well.

We highly appreciate that many people see his elaborate artisan sculpture-technique and share creation moment of experimental challenge by detaching hands from the work,《Sculpture of Liberty》.

It’s been almost 10 years since I had first seen a sculpture, 《Fragment of a Queen’s Face》 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Queen’s head sculpture is said to have been carved during 1352-1336 B.C. and she has lost the most part of head remaining only her mouth and chin. The large cross section split sharply like a sheet of glass and the fascinating yellow stone tells its hardness. The split section reveals some kind of vitality and shows natural face of material. Beating between pure natural look of stone and the artificial surface carved by a sculptor bring out each other to vital advantage. And the big “lack” stirs up viewers’ imagination, arouses a great deal of controversy and keeps fascinating people in all the years. If this sculpture were unbroken and remained intact, I wouldn’t feel abnormal impatience to the lost parts like one-sided love, and it would solely come into my eyes as one of the precious cultural assets.

Since I started carving at the university, I’ve been working attracted by the beauty of natural materials and essence of carving. But at the same time I daily struggle with contradiction or difficulty to complete works by “destructive” action of carving original beautiful natural materials.

After my encounter with 《Fragment of a Queen’s Face》, I just started wondering if there would be the limit in artificial creation, of which thought has gradually strengthened in me, and so I have done a lot of research such as burning or cutting off wood to seek accidental nature just before completing pieces. For familiar examples, in ceramic art; color and brightness of pottery developed by high heat cannot be predicted. “Yakishime-Final Burning” changes the pottery shape and the process of fixing glaze.

Even if broken, cultural assets leave beauty and are wrapped in mystery. Even though they are created by history, time or accident and their final shapes are enchanting objects with nature power, can’t they be regarded as same as potteries that are made through mysterious high heat processing.

Not creation from nothing, but calculating a lot of requirements or elements that constitute timeless and borderless fascination or beauty, I’d like to incorporate the idea to produce my own art in our times.

Japan is an earthquake-prone country, and has ever experienced a lot of misfortune including being nuked at Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima; so been forced various ordeal. For Japanese, actually “Destroying and Creating” may have been familiar for generations. I have been in America for the past years, but on this occasion of exhibition in Tokyo, I’d like to grope for answers “What are Japanese?” or “Who am I?” through the sculpture; and to invite viewers to unknown and xenogeneic world.

Sequoyah AONO